Wordless Wednesday: Postcard Advent Calendar, December 15: A Merry Christmas to All

Santa Postcard, HSV Lithograph Company, New York, New York

Hello, Donald, I received your card. Would like to see you. Hope Santa will bring you what you want. I want a pair of Skates but mama is afraid for me to have them.  ~Ralph*

On this second day of the Postcard Advent Calendar I reveal another Santa in the American style. Outfitted in his fur-trimmed red suit and hat, this sainted man’s rosy cheeks and twinkling eyes are buried in a full snow-white beard.  His posture, finger paused by his nose, seems to suggest Ralph interrupted him to write Donald’s note.  “Remember, Ralph and Donald, I am watching you boys.”  Wreathed in a holly-covered horseshoe, Santa generously offers the promise of dreams fulfilled: “Good luck learning to skate!” “Here’s your drum and trumpet! Play in the town square!” “Scare your sister with this toy mouse and then calm her down with Dolly!”

This silver bordered postcard was sent to Donald Minor on December 18, 1909.   A one cent stamp was all that was required for young Ralph to send this Christmas greeting from South Connellsville to Carmichaels, towns in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania.

Blair and Ralph, Photocard postmarked June 17, 1908

I delight in trolling through family heirlooms, discovering the bits and pieces of my story. This current project is but my second reading of the postcards and I am still discerning the relationships various writers have with my grandfather.  One thing IS clear; a good percentage of these cards are sent by family members.  Therefore, I am willing to wager a pair of skates that Ralph is  Donald’s cousin.



*To make the note easier to read, I have corrected spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Advent Calendar December 4: Christmas Greetings–The Postcards of Donald Corbly Minor

Every day I open my Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar, click the glowing ornament and enjoy the day’s holiday animation.  As the cyber village comes to life I relive the memories I share with my friend who sent this Christmas greeting.  Every day I gather the mail from its box, bring it inside and stand by the kitchen bin, sorting my stash into bills, junk and CHRISTMAS CARDS!  The colorful greetings from neighbors, family and long-distant friends are read, reread, then taped to the kitchen door frame to be admired throughout the season.  This year I am adding another source of holiday anticipation–a blast from my past! Each day I will print out a copy of the Christmas greetings mailed to my eight year old grandfather, Donald Corbly Minor, a hundred years ago.   These postcards belong to a substantial collection found in a book made expressly for postcard collectors.

When I tap into my printer’s menu options, I can actually increase the postcard 250% and make a small 8″x11″ poster.  Day by day I will add a poster (praying that the poster tape is really paint friendly upon removal) to my living room wall, and by Christmas I should have a unique mural, a postcard quilt–that’s the plan.

All sorts of loving wishes were sent to little Donald who lived on a farm at Rural Route 1, Carmichaels, Greene County, Pennsylvania, with his dog, Rover and a pony, Billy.  Snowy landscapes, excited children, ladened Santas, birds and kittens all sent their greetings, much like Christmas cards today.

I love Christmas cards, in all their formats, but I must confide that one card–received over forty years ago–remains the BEST CARD EVER.  It wasn’t a card so much as a note, left by an elf at our back door, and discovered by brother #2 who SAW the said elf as he hightailed his high-hatted self into the woods behind our Virginia home.   To discover the contents of Santa’s Christmas greeting you, dear reader, will have to pop by on December 6.


You can see more vintage Christmas greetings in my Postcard Advent Calendar, posts that begin December 14 and run through December 25.  Enjoy!


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Amanuensis Monday: A Letter Home

Abia Minor Writes Home, 1872

Sulivan Moultrie Co Ills

June 25th 1872

Dear Father I Received your kind letter dated the 5th June in reply I will Say we are all as well as usual The last I heard from Jacksonville Harriet was improving. *(1)  I would have answered sooner But I was starting to Chicago with Some Sheep I Sold them for five cents they weghed 104 lbs Made me some money they cost me about 2 1/2 cts I have about 200 Sheep on hands my pastures is good about knee high Timothy When up I saw the Burt district *(2) and no one can discribe it nor can they discribe the improvements going on it look like anything But a City The Buildings going up are mutch better then the Old Ones We have a fine prospect for corn and oats wheat will be light grass is fine Stock is low cattle from 3 to 5 cents hogs 3 cts corn 38 cts If I could get a good lot of Sheep I would come to Pittsburg But they are hard to get what I mean by good ones are some that will weigh 120 oz upwards.  I would like to hear from you often You will find endorsed my note with Mother Millers name Dated Back to the time you got the interest from Tompkins *(3) with these lines I reamain yours as ever Abia Minor.

*(1) Harriet is Abia’s second wife.  Why she was a patient at Illinois Central Hospital for the Insane, Jacksonville, Illinois, is unknown.

*(2) Abia Minor, eldest son of John Pearson Minor and first wife Hannah McClelland, was a farmer taking his stock to Chicago.  On this trip he witnessed the recovery efforts that followed the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 started, as a the folksong would have it, by ol’ Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.  It raged from October 8 until extinguished by heavy rainfall on October 10.  Seventeen thousand buildings of Old Chicago were destroyed,  and 90,000 people were left homeless. Three hundred people lost their lives.

*(3)  John P Minor lent money to relatives and friends, charging up to 10% interest.  Each act was recorded with a note which detailed the loan and its terms.  This references one such transaction.

Amanuensis To Some Military Past: Francis Marion Minor and the 1863 Federal Draft

Harper's Weekly, 14 March 1863

The conscription bill enrolls all the males of the loyal States (including Indians and negroes) between the ages of 20 and 45 into a national militia, and empowers the President to call them into the service of the United States for three years or the war.

Congress has wisely empowered the Executive to receive a sum of $300 from any drafted man who prefers paying to serving.  This sum, it is believed, will always secure a substitute.  Clergymen, professional men, large merchants and manufacturers, and others who are of more use to the country while prosecuting their various peaceful avocations than they would be if forced to carry a musket, will thus be exempted, while the class of men which take their place will receive money enough to keep their families as comfortably as if they had remained at home.

Under the operation of the Act the President will be enabled to recruit our armies to the full standard when the time of the nine months’ men expires, and the hopes of the rebels–which have been re-echoed by the correspondents of disloyal journals–that our armies would melt away in the spring will be thoroughly defeated.

This week’s Civil War and Reconstruction Era reading assignment included this report on the legislative achievements of the Thirty-seventh Congress.  *ding*  A little bell rang in my head.  I rushed upstairs to my Minor Satchel, and gingerly opened it’s mouth.  Carefully I searched among its contents, and found IT: a letter, previously sorted and stored in an annotated acid-free sleeve.  AHA! I do have a personal connection to this tidbit of Yankee news.

The Letter

I John Philan of Waynesburg Greene County Pa. hereby certify that I as the agent of Francis Marion Minor of Greene Township Greene County Penna procured William H MKee of Allegheny County Pa to act a s a substitute under the Draft of last summer, for the Minor who was drafted under that Draft, as he is also under the present Draft as I am informed.  I paid the money to the said M’Kee for the said Minor, and saw him sworn into the service of the United States in the Company of Capt Cru in the 168 Regimentof Pennsylvania Militia and procured from Capt Cru a certificate of the fact which I subsequently returned to said Minor.  My recollection is that the said M’Kee represented himself to be over the age of forty five, which was my opinion from his appearance.                                                                         J. Philan

I Christian C Rushe of Greene Township Greene County Penna hereby certify that I was drafted under the Draft of last summer and served my time out in the Company Capt Cru 168 Regt Penna Militia and was regularly discharged on the 25 day of July A.D. 1863  I knew John (William is written and crossed out) H. M’Kee above named as a member of said Company, and know that he served out his time in said company and was regularly discharged at the same time I was My recollection is that the said M’Kee represented his age to be fifty five years.

These statements were sworn before the Justice of the Peace on 8 August 1863.

Company A, 168th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry records show that the said Private John M’Kee was mustered out with the company on July 25, 1863.  There is no record of Francis Marion Minor serving at any point during the civil war.

My conclusion? Francis Minor paid a John M’Kee to substitute for him in the Federal conscription of 1862.  Further more, my great-great-grandfather Minor was one of 292,441 men living north of the Mason-Dixon line, who received  draft notices the summer of 1863, and he was one of the 52,288 whose service was commuted.  In fact, of the nearly 300,000 men called up only 9,881 actually were successfully drafted into Union service.  (Final Report of the Provost Marshal, Journal of the House of Representatives, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., 1866, vol.4, House Exec. Doc. 1, pp. 175, 184, 199, 212.)

So many questions float to the surface of my mind:  When was the first conscription declared and what were its exemptions?  What did Francis Minor do during the Civil War that gave him the capital to pay agent John Philan to find  a substitute soldier?  Why wouldn’t he want to serve?  Who was this John M’Kee, who needed the money Francis Minor could afford to part with?  What sort of man was he?

I will pay close attention to the remaining, untranscribed satchel contents, hoping for further clues about the life and times of Francis Marion Minor.

Tombstone Tuesday: John Pearson (Pierson) Minor

Veteran, War of 1812
—–John Pearson Minor was born in Middlesex, New Jersey on 7 November 1791.  He moved with his parents, Abia and Margaret Pearson Minor, to Greene County, Pennsylvania in 1796.  The War of 1812 veteran remained in the Whitely Creek area for the duration of his life, serving as a financial lender, land speculator, cattle dealer, and farmer.  He married Hannah McClelland about 1815, and had two children, Abia born 3 July 1816, and  Robert born 11 April 1817.  After her death in 28 April 1817, John married Isabella McClelland  on 24 September 1817,  and together they had 9 children:  Hannah (6 June 1818-?); Mary Ann (19 January 1820-?);   Margaret (5 November 1821- ?);   Rebecca (29 November 1823-5 July 1891);  Samuel Pierson (23 August 1825–27 August 1909);  Francis Marion (23 November 1828–4 August 1913);  Sarah Ellen (10 September 1833–21 October  1862);  Frances Caroline  (9 May 1833–21 October 1862).  Isabella died at home on 14 August 1863.
John P. Minor left the family farm to his son Francis Marion on the condition that he be allowed to remain at the farm for the duration of his life–at no cost. This Minor patriarch died at home on 12 September 1874 and was buried in the cemetery of  John Corbley Baptist Church, Garard’s Fort, Pennsylvania.

John Corbley Baptist Church, Garards Fort, Pennsylvania